Sixteen motorists were given fines totalling €205,000 on Monday after they failed to turn up to court to face charges for repeatedly failing to pay M50 tolls.
They were summonsed to appear at Dublin District Court. Each one faced five sample counts of not paying tolls for trips in October and December 2020 and January this year. They did not attend the proceedings.
Prosecutions against 16 vehicle owners went ahead in their absence resulting in fines ranging from €7,000 to €25,000 being imposed by Judge Anthony Halpin. He took into account the track record of unpaid charges in each case and the motorists’ efforts to pay.
Most of the cases involved standard private vehicles with records of between just over 100 and almost 500 unpaid trips. Thousands of warning letters were sent to the motorists, the court was told.
The highest number of unpaid tolls in the court on Monday involved a truck owner. He had a history of 589 trips on the motorway and no payments despite being sent more than 1,300 warning letters. He was fined €20,000.
The largest fine yesterday was given to a motorist who had already been given a €10,000 penalty in 2018 for dodging the toll.
Imposing another fine, €25,000 this time, Judge Halpin said that driver had clearly not learned his lesson.
“The only way this court can ensure people pay the toll is by imposing huge fines because if people did not pay the tolls we would not have our roads and not have maintenance in place,” he added.
Prosecuting counsel Thomas Rice BL (instructed by Pierse Fitzgibbon Solicitors) said certificates detailing the registered owners of the vehicles as well as the images of them passing the toll gantry on the M50 on specific dates were obtained.
The details were confirmed during the hearing by a Transport Infrastructure Ireland witness who outlined the number of passages and payment history of each motorist.
On top of the fines, which have to be paid within six months, vehicle owners were ordered to pay €350 in prosecution costs.
Fines of up to €5,000 per charge as well as a sentence of up to six months can be imposed.
The court has heard the motorway authority only selected habitual non-payers to face criminal proceedings
The standard M50 toll for an unregistered private car is €3.10 must be paid before 8pm the following day or else there is a €3.00 penalty for missing the deadline. Motorists have 14 days from the date of issue to pay for the journey and the initial penalty; otherwise a further penalty of €41 is applied. After a further 56 days there is an additional penalty charge of €103 and if it remains unpaid legal proceedings follow with the possibility of a court fine of up to €5,000 as well as a jail term of six-months, or both, per offence.
Commercial and goods vehicle owners must pay higher tolls.
The registered owner of a vehicle is responsible even if they were not driving the vehicle.